Last year I was travelling through the Highlands when I stopped in a little town that I hadn’t been in for many years. I had a little walk and came across a rather twee little gift shop with a notice in the window exhorting people to buy locally or lose the local facilities.
I had a good look at what was on offer wondering just how much of it was from the area or from Scotland or, indeed, even from the UK. The answer was virtually nothing obvious. It was almost all from low cost/income economies such as Bangladesh and China.
This got me thinking in the wider context. In Napier, New Zealand, I am used to fresh food in season. For the most part greengrocery comes from New Zealand and as locally as possible to the point of sale. Fortunately New Zealand has a climate such that many more fresh foods can be grown and for longer periods than in the UK. Of course many foods such as apples and potatoes can also be stored for eating all year round. I got used to eating things in season and still find it strange that in Stornoway I can buy anything at all all the year round: it is just sourced from wherever it is available and transported often half way around the world. The exception is water melons!
We want to be green. We want the people of Bangladesh and such countries to have better working conditions. We also want food (and everything else) to be available all the year round and not to pay a true market price for it (food is, I believe, often substantially subsidised by the EU i.e. by our taxes) or, in the case of clothes, a price which would allow companies from whom we buy things to insist on good working conditions for suppliers’ workers.
I’d love to support the ideals in the words at the top of this post. Will I ever have that opportunity? History would tend to suggest not.